WH To Skip Releasing Economic Projections That Could Forecast Extent Of Downturn
The Washington Post reports that the White House has opted to not release updated economic projections. The White House typically releases a budget proposal in February, followed by a “mid-session review” in July or August with “updated projections on economic trends such as unemployment, inflation and economic growth.”
The Post states that “budget experts” it consulted with “said they were not aware of any previous White House opting against providing forecasts in this ‘mid-session review’ document in any other year since at least the 1970s.”
Two White House officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed to the Post that the economic projections were excluded from the mid-session release intentionally.
The White House officials also said that the budget report will include data on federal spending, but that it will not include a projection for the year’s federal deficit. They affirmed that the White House will still release the annual deficit for the year by October, the end of the fiscal year.
A senior administration official, again speaking on the condition of anonymity, defended the decision. They said, “Given the unprecedented state of play in the economy at the moment, the data is… extremely fluid and would produce a less instructive forecast.” They also claimed that publishing forecast data might “mislead the public.”
White House officials claim they are nevertheless being transparent about the economy. Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, acknowledged that “the numbers coming in are not good. In fact, they are downright bad in most cases.”
Even so, “Both liberal and conservative critics said the White House should publish its economic projections in line with the precedent set by prior administrations, regardless of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic,” the Post reports.
The Post explains, “The White House under President Barack Obama continued to release these numbers during the Great Recession, although they were unflattering.”
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economic adviser to the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ), said of the decision, “It gets them off the hook for having to say what the economic outlook looks like.”
And Bill Hoagland, former Republican staff director for the Senate Budget Committee and senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center, asserted that “There is no logistical reason they couldn’t do it.”
For example, the Congressional Budget Office updated its own economic projections in April and May, in spite of COVID-19’s volatile impact on the United States economy.
Hoagland also hypothesized,
It seems more likely they do not want to bring attention to the high level of unemployment they’d have to project for this year, and into next year.